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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

Los Angeles cop Hank Rafferty sees his partner gunned down in the line of duty and wants the killer brought to justice. His quest hits a snag, though, when he runs into Earl (a cocky African American L.A.P.D. wannabe) reaching into the driver’s side window of a locked car trying to pull the keys from the ignition. Concerned that Earl might be stealing the car, Hank starts questioning him, only to have the uncooperative smart-aleck accuse him of racial profiling. In mid-confrontation, a bumblebee terrorizes them and Hank swings at it wildly with his nightstick. The whole thing is caught on amateur home video from an angle that makes Hank appear to be beating Earl mercilessly. The tape’s release creates a Rodney King-like scenario for the police force and lands Hank in prison for six months. When he gets out, the best job he can find is with a small security company. No gun. No authority. No respect. As fate would have it, a warehouse robbery by the same crew that capped his partner finds Hank on the scene. And that’s when he runs into another employee of National Security … Earl. Suddenly fighting on the same side, the two antagonists are thrust into a thickening plot involving murderous thugs, dirty cops and a coveted metal alloy worth millions. They bicker. They belt one another. They trade insults (Earl is hypersensitive to perceived racial slights). As one might expect, they also thwart the bad guys and become pals.

positive elements: Try as he might, Hank can’t save the life of his L.A.P.D. partner, and commits himself to apprehending the killers. It takes a long time, but Hank and Earl develop mutual respect and bail each other out of tough situations at great personal risk. A matronly black woman refuses to have her vehicle commandeered and reprimands Hank for his poor manners. She instead offers the men a ride, demands that they refrain from using profanity, and then prods them for a “thank you” as they part ways.

sexual content: Earl hits on every woman he meets, using bold sexual come-ons in some cases. He looks for sex from a female truck driver, the woman at the police impound lot, and Hank’s girlfriend. After encountering the middle-aged lady who gives them a lift, Earl wonders if he should have asked for her number. There are sexual double entendres, as well as jokes about penis size, sodomy, incest and a chipmunk trying to mate with a turtle. While on duty, Earl invites his girlfriend to strip for him, which she does (she winds up handcuffed and in her underwear).

violent content: In the opening scene, an exchange of bullets ends when Hank’s partner gets shot in the back at close range. Numerous shootouts feature ammo flying from pistols and automatic weapons. The fatalities aren’t unduly graphic, but a handful of bad guys go down. One is catapulted off a cliff and shown floating face-down in the ocean. Earl and Nash square off in a fistfight. Hank punches Earl in the jaw. Earl returns the favor. Earl knocks a man down by driving up behind him and hitting him with a car door. Lots of destructive car chases, people leaping through panes of glass and other illogical stunts. Car crashes (most in midair at 45-degree angles) and gunfire lead to major explosions. Earl and Hank drive a van off a high bridge and land on a garbage barge. In prison, two black men aware of the racial nature of Hank’s conviction attack him and threaten to kill him. To earn time in solitary confinement—thus ensuring his own safety—Hank twice decks a guard.

crude or profane language: More than 80 profanities (including an f-word and nearly 20 s-words), sexual innuendo and some racially insensitive comments. “G–d–n” is said three times.

drug and alcohol content: Scenes shot in bars and clubs feature patrons drinking.

other negative elements: The film’s satirical jabs at black victimization may be perceived as racist and offensive to some viewers. There’s also an inherent injustice in the way things turn out. Earl starts out an insolent jerk whose disrespect for police and false testimony against Hank ultimately leads to him being rewarded. Meanwhile, Hank’s heroism merely takes him back to where he was prior to being “undone” by Earl.

conclusion: Earl’s favorite expression is the feeble, forced attempt at spawning a catch-phrase, “What the problem is?” Did Yoda move to the ’hood? Here’s “the problem” with National Security: Apart from the bumblebee episode, there’s not a fresh idea in the entire film. In fact, the most inspired moment occurred off-screen when someone suggested that Lawrence and Zahn’s warehouse showdown take place amid endless pallets of Coca-Cola products. For several minutes, you can’t not look at the Coke logo. It’s a brazen new step in shameless product placement, but at least someone was being creative.

What the problem is? The problem is that Mr. Lawrence—infamous in Hollywood for being a pill to work with—needs to surround himself with people unafraid to tell him when a joke isn’t funny. The first time we hear him onscreen, he’s explaining why he chose not to shoot at a villainous pop-up figure during a police training exercise. It’s a lame, laughless rip-off of Will Smith’s clever bit from Men in Black. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign of things to come over the next 90 minutes. His insincere mugging, libidinous come-ons, thug prancing and profane rambling is an embarrassment.

What the problem is? For families it’s all of the above plus sexual situations, racist sparring and a non-stop stream of profanity. In other words, National Security is another absurd, offensive Martin Lawrence buddy-cop flick to throw on a growing pile.

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Bob Smithouser